Probate is a legal process that involves many tasks. In addition to proving that a person’s last will and testament is valid and legally sound, probate also entails locating and paying creditors, and ensuring heirs receive assets according to the deceased’s estate plan.
While many people fear the probate process, it does not always mean increased stress or headaches. Here are a few things you can expect so you are fully prepared.
What you will need during the probate hearing
The person named as executor by the deceased must file certain documents with the court to get the process started. In addition to the will itself, the executor must also provide a death certificate. They will also need to provide a list of creditors, which are entities that the deceased owed money to at the time of their death. The court also requires a list of the heirs named within the will.
Assets that must go through probate court
Anything named within the will is relevant in probate court. However, assets and property that are not included in the will and that lack a beneficiary designation will also go through probate court. In this case, state laws dictate how to disperse assets to heirs. This usually entails dispersing them to immediate family members once the executor has paid creditors.
Certain assets do not require probate and are instead distributed to named heirs automatically. For instance, any beneficiaries named on life insurance policies and retirement accounts will receive assets immediately after the estate owner’s death. If there is a co-owner, property and assets become theirs once the other owner dies.
How you can avoid probate
Assets held within a trust are also protected from probate. The trust becomes the rightful owner of assets and property, as opposed to the estate owner. Trusts also provide a greater level of control over inheritances, as you can specify special conditions when creating the trust.